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PHU makes strong statement

Just in case anyone had amnesia over what transpired during most of the 2001 season, Palm Harbor University sent out one final memo Saturday night.

At the Class 3A, District 5 meet, the Hurricanes used their depth and a few notable event wins to beat some of the same county rivals that fell short earlier in the year at the Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet.

The girls team collected 522 points to win its fourth district title in five years, beating Seminole by 71 and St. Petersburg by 262.

The boys race was considerably tighter, but again, PHU came out on top with 379.5 points to Seminole's 364.

St. Petersburg finished an agonizing third, a half-point behind the Warhawks.

"I hope that we made the statement that we wanted to make, that yes, we are indeed the best team in Pinellas County," said PHU coach Lisa Bitting, who saw her boys and girls win both conference and districts for the first time.

Seminole, which beat PHU in a September dual meet, fared slightly better than the Hurricanes at the top of the boys competition.

The Warhawks qualified all three of their relays for the state meet (the top three finishers in each event earned automatic berths), including picking up a win in the 400-yard freestyle relay, and Ryan Singletary won the 50 free.

Josh Curnutte picked up the Hurricanes' lone win on the boys side in the 100 free, and the overall team strength carried the rest of the load _ despite starting on a bad note after the 200 medley relay team was disqualified when the anchor swimmer left the blocks early.

The PHU girls picked up four wins, with freshman Jessica Deng having a night to remember.

She won the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke, and took a leg on the winning 200 medley relay team. Teammate Courtney Childress, also on the relay, notched a win in the 100 backstroke.

Seminole's girls won two relays, the 200 and 400 free relays, and Clearwater's Stephanie Margalis won the 200 and 500 free as expected.

St. Petersburg's boys had more event victories (five) than anyone.

The Green Devils' 200 medley relay and 200 free relay teams came in first, Ryan Nardozzi won the 200 individual medley and Joe Eberhard picked up a pair of titles in the 100 fly and 100 breast.

"That's unbelievable," Eberhard said. "Things look great for next week."

The Class 3A state meet is Nov. 17 at the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale.

A-6: Jaguars capture title

ST. PETERSBURG _ Admiral Farragut's Nicole Margaritondo won two events (the 200 and 500 free). So did Clearwater Central Catholic's Meghan MacCurrach (the 200 individual medley and 100 fly).

Individual performances were what Pinellas County teams focused on. That's because the team titles were conceded to Hillsborough County schools.

Academy of the Holy Names scored 367{ points to win its first district title since 1978. Jesuit won its third boys district title in a row with 397{ points.

The Jaguars took first place in the 200 free relay and the 400 free relay.

"We have a lot of depth and every girl was key," Academy of Holy Names coach Mara Toole said.

Besides Margaritondo and MacCurrach, other Pinellas county winners were: Indian Rocks Christian's Marlise Davidson (100 free) and CCC's 200 medley relay.

Much like Academy, Jesuit used depth to win.

The Tigers had only had one first-place finisher (Benjamin Sheridan in the 100 free) but had swimmers place in the top six in each event.

"I lost five seniors, including two All-Americans and my entire medley relay team to graduation," Tigers coach Bill Shaffer said. "We're young and have eight freshman and six sophomores.

"But we had depth and all my swimmers recorded their best times."

Shorecrest's boys team finished third, highest among county teams.

The Chargers' Steven Lowry was the county's lone individual winner on the boys side. He took first in the 50 free and was part of the winning 200 free relay.

Berkeley Prep's Andy Helvenston won the 200 individual medley and the 100 back and was on the winning 200 medley relay and 400 free relay.

_ BOB PUTNAM

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